Facebook has over 350 million users, making it the most popular social networking site in the world. It has allowed millions of people to reconnect after many years of lost contact as well as provided a means of making new friends. However, for those involved in a personal injury case, your facebook postings could damage or completely destroy your case.
At Stark & Stark, P.C., we warn all of our clients that if they use Facebook or MySpace, then they need to be careful about what they post. You never know who may be reading your posts. We know that some insurance companies, defense attorneys, and private investigators are trying to view your Facebook accounts.
If there are recent photos of you posted by your friends, they can be viewed by people outside your network of "friends", despite your privacy settings.
Postings from Facebook have been admitted in courts and have been used by police, investigators and the media. In fact, firms representing the insurance company can have their lawyers and clerks search Facebook for the injured party’s pages, profiles and pictures. THIS HAPPENS!
Recently Courts in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and California have entered Orders compelling the parties involved in lawsuits to provide access to their Facebook accounts. Would you want a jury to read what you are typing in the privacy of your own home?
In the digital age, what you share and where you share it can be very important to the success of your court case. Letting off steam on Facebook or joking around on Twitter may be harmful to your case. If you think it is just your friends reading it, think again.
The Internet and social networking sites have changed the face of litigation in this country. However, there are some precautions that you can take to protect yourself, short of boycotting the Internet all together. First, be careful in reviewing the photos and posts on your social networking site. Remove anything that you would not want an insurance company lawyer to see that could help them defend against your case. Next, check your privacy settings which enable you to block certain people from seeing you on a particular site (Facebook allows this). It is also helpful to search your name in the search field and see what comes up to make sure it is acceptable (it is advisable to do this on Google and YouTube as well). Finally never accept friend requests or respond to emails from people you do not know.
Clients need to realize that the defense will go to great lengths to defeat personal injury and medical malpractice claims. The larger your case, the more money and time the defense will spend to defeat it.
Be aware that anything that you post online can be used to undermine your case. This applies to postings on Facebook, My Space, Twitter, and other social media. You should select an attorney who has the experience and ability to protect your rights. You should not speak or write about you case with anyone other than your attorney.
In short, be cautious of what you post on a social network and be aware of what others are posting.
Tyler Tomlinson is a member of Stark & Stark’s Accident & Personal Injury Group. For additional information, please contact Mr. Tomlinson: firstname.lastname@example.org.